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If we take a closer look at [Beverly Hills Councilman] Lester Friedman’s May 12 editorial in the Courier, we find that construction is scheduled to begin and be completed within five years but “LVMH can purchase extensions.” As such, the projected completion date is not fixed but could go on forever and it is not on a “clear enforceable schedule” as Mr. Friedman states.
This means that South Santa Monica Boulevard will be bogged down for at least four years during construction and forever when it is opened and operating. Remember what happened when one lane was removed from the street in the eastern direction and the chaos that ensued until the lane was restored. It is sure to happen again if this project is allowed to go forward, but this time permanently.
“If LVMH does not satisfy the fundamental commitments, all of the approvals are forfeited and the city is entitled to $50 million in damages.” That statement requires a great deal of amplification and clarification to be taken seriously and the term “fundamental commitment” is a glaring red flag.
The editorial states, “LVMH regard Cheval Blanc Beverly Hills as a 100-year investment” but can sell it after only six months.
“The Development Agreement requires that once construction is complete, Cheval Blanc Beverly Hills must be opened and operated for a continuous six months” and “so long as the hotel is operated at the property, it will be maintained at the highest level.” This appears to mean only if it is still Cheval Blanc which the word “the” and not the word “a” would signify.
What exactly is Cheval Blanc? It is only a name. It is all they have and they bandy it around as if was something tangible like the Hope Diamond.
We have another recent local example with the Waldorf Astoria. The original in New York was a beautiful expression of a much-admired style of its time. The same cannot be honestly said of the Beverly Hills version approved by much of the current City Council who readily admit to me that they know very little about architecture and planning.
Even if Mr. Friedman and Ms. Bosse bargained hard for their community’s benefit they were up against the money and power of possibly the world’s richest man.
This entire project should have been a non-starter right from the beginning because of its size and planning deficiencies. You cannot negotiate a successful solution to an unsolvable planning problem as this so clearly proves.
They propose this will be a financial windfall for the city but provide no proof that it will even cover the additional expenses incurred by the project when a better bet would be a code-adhering development. LVMH could not consider that because they grossly overpaid for the land believing they had the city under control, which they did. However, they are being stymied by the upcoming vote to find out what the residents really want.
I find it incredulous when Mr. Friedman brings up the 1-million-square-foot One Beverly Hills fiasco. Just reading “1 Million Square Foot” makes me shudder because of its size, and let us not forget the sneaky way it was approved in opposition to a previous vote on a very similar project.
Again, in this instance, the Planning Commission is used to justify the project when as I have stated before, it has not one member who is trained in planning and its current chairman was educated and served as a trial lawyer. It appears the council members will never stop trying to legitimize that commission even though that is an impossibility as currently configured.
The problem is not necessarily the commissioners. It is the Council for putting them in place and pretending they have the required expertise.
I commend Mr. Friedman for not becoming involved in the puffery relating to the architecture and design of the building as is so often advanced by the proponents. I do, however, ask those who compliment the design of the building what it is about it they find so pleasing. One does not have to be an architect to see it is a boring, over scaled, uninspired building trying desperately to hide its massiveness and with no significant design features or finesse. It is a collection of blocky, bland, flat facades searching for an identity only animated by its removable awnings. If one believes that the architect is truly world renown as he is being billed by the proponents, I ask them to identify any of his stand-alone buildings that attest to this title.
In order to successfully deal with this unsolvable problem we have to rid ourselves of this unsolvable problem and vote No on B and C.
To paraphrase Mr. Friedman, Cheval Blanc Beverly Hills is a poorly designed project, inappropriate at any time, and certainly in the wrong place.
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